Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.
If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.
She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.
But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.
Which was the plan all along.
Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.
She's going to show them all.
“We’re all bad, she’d said. The only thing we’re good at is hiding it.”
This psychological thriller is a twisted mind fuck about love. Or is it about addiction? Maybe both. Laney, the protagonist warns you early on that she’s an unsympathetic heroine, and that there won’t be any lessons learned in this quest for revenge. She was wrong. I did sympathize with her, even though I think I hated her. And I learned that some people – most people – love most the things that hurt them. They can’t let go of the things that destroy them.
Black Iris is a book that is layered, but the layers are crushed together and twisted into a ball-like mess. As the story progresses, each layer is pealed back and untwined and information is revealed. Unfortunately, the layers are covered in an oil that stains and by the time you get to the black in the center, you’ll be covered in grime.
It’s hard to describe exactly how I feel about this book. My immediate reaction is that I liked it, but I don’t really know how to verbalize why. Throughout the majority of this book, I felt…well, I don’t really know how I felt. Uncomfortable, squirmy, irritated, thrilled, depressed, confused, disappointed, impressed? Can I feel all those things at once?
“Strength is not in the body, it’s in the mind. It doesn’t lie in flexing your muscles and crushing those who oppose you. It lies in being the last one standing. By any means. At any cost.”
I feel conflicted emotions for this book because of Laney. She’s a complex character who made me dizzy as I tried to understand her. She’s strong yet fragile, hard but so vulnerable, and she was grotesque but still beautiful. It’s hard to discuss her character without giving away the plot, but Laney grows in darkness and she’s been hurt so many times that her edges are jagged from being broken repeatedly.
“I never wanted you until I had you…and then I couldn’t imagine my life without you. You’re the dark thing that was in me. I set you free.”
After being mocked and tortured, Laney decides to get her revenge, and Black Iris’ twisted plot reveals her vendetta. Generally, I enjoyed the story. It was vivid and thrilling, and it had a cinematic feel that was achieved by Leah Reader’s expressive prose. There were times when her writing became a little too flowery and I felt like it took away from the story and made the characters seem a bit pretentious, but that didn’t stop her writing from leaving an impression. I do have to note that I didn’t love the climax, since I thought it was a bit ridiculous, but it didn’t take too much away from the journey.
Black Iris has multi-dimensional characters that are hard to categorize. I read this book because of that reason, and I can say I’m better for it. I’ve never read a contemporary romance (outside of erotica) that has characters with such fluid sexualities, and it was eye opening to get to know these characters. As the author previously stated, there are some girl on girl scenes in this book, and reading them was a novel experience for me. Honestly, sometimes these scenes made me uncomfortable, but I’ll chalk that up to the fact that it’s unfamiliar. I didn’t enjoy them as much as I enjoy m/m scenes (there weren’t any of them in this book, btw), but that won’t stop me from reading more from this author.
“Forgiveness is weakness…The weak forgive because they have no power to do anything else.”
Read Black Iris if you want to experience the thrill of living life on the edge. Read Black Iris if you aren’t afraid to see the ugly in people and if you can see their beauty through their malice. I recommend this book to people who like when words seep into their minds and leave them feeling warped. Leah Raeder created something that’s unforgettable, no matter how you feel about it.